Covid pressures and staff shortages pressuring Calderdale health services before winter has hit

The COVID-19 pandemic already pressuring health services in Calderdale before winter has hit at a time when sectors face staffing crises nationally, senior health chiefs have warned.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 9:16 am
Updated Friday, 15th October 2021, 9:18 am

Shortages of staff ranging from locum GPs to care home workers are likely to have an impact this winter, Calderdale Health and Wellbeing Board members heard.

Calderdale Council Chief Executive Robin Tuddenham said nationally there was a naivete about the challenges primary care faced and more money – funding has recently been announced by the Government – was not the whole picture.

A shortage of locums for GP practices meant health partners were involved in a “bidding war”, he said.

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Calderdale Council Chief Executive Robin Tuddenham

“It is a staffing crisis. you can have all the money in the world but people can only do so much and primary care is on its knees.

“We can’t ask people to keep doing more locum work,” said Mr Tuddenham.

Care homes could also come under pressure with exhausted staff leaving care homes amid the pandemic, some moving to new, better paid jobs out of necessity, while increasing COVID-19 case rates were starting to put pressure on hospital beds, members heard.

The council’s Director of Adult Services and Wellbeing, Iain Baines, said nationally, and on top of numbers already down, an extra 400,000 people would be required nationally to come and work in social care.

It meant social care needed to compete with other sectors paying better salaries, one area where money could help, and the challenge needed long term planning too, said Mr Baines.

“People committed themselves in the pandemic but they are really tired and having to deal with issues of making decisions to move out of care work they really value to put food on the table.

“Far too many people working in social care are requiring Universal Credit and we need to put a higher value on people working in social care,” he said.

Calderdale Council’s Director of Public Health, Deborah Harkins said the number of COVID-19 cases in Calderdale is the highest it has been through the pandemic and evidence was clear it was being driven by transmission in schools.

Cases in school age children has never been as high and the virus was being passed onto older people, with the borough’s case rate for people aged over 60 being the fifth highest in England.

Vaccines have reduced the link between the virus and serious illness but unfortunately more people were now needing hospital care, said Ms Harkins.

New recommendations had been given to schools that where a child is at a home where someone has tested positively for COVID-19 they should stay away from school for three to five days and then take a PCR test, which if negative would allow them to return.

“We are additionally asking schools to to think about recommending the use of face coverings, ventilation, reducing mixing, reducing visitors and thinking about whether residential education visits should go ahead,” said Ms Harkins.